DEAR AMY: I make no secret that I'm not a fan of kids. I don't want to baby-sit. I don't want kids of my own. I don't think kids of any age are cute. I definitely don't want to hold them. Those last two items are causing me trouble. See, many of my friends and relatives are spawning. Inevitably I wind up looking at pictures of their offspring and/or going to see the newborn critter. I can usually put on a smile and pretend I'm enjoying myself for a short time, but people often ask two questions I have no idea how to answer. The first question is some variation of, "Isn't little (insert name of child) cute?" The second is, "Do you want to hold (insert gender of child)?" I don't find their kids cute and I don't want to hold them. But how do I say that gently? I may not like kids, but I'm not about to say, "Your offspring looks like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Winston Churchill." So how do I respond when someone asks, "Isn't (child's name) cute?" without lying? And what's a good excuse I can give for turning down an offer to hold the baby?
DEAR CHILD-FREE: Here's a quote about the grouchy commander-in-chief of baby-haters, W.C. Fields: "Anyone who hates dogs and children can't be all bad." Perhaps if you had this printed on a T-shirt to wear in the presence of babies and their parents, you wouldn't be invited to interact with them.
However, if the worst happens and you are ambushed and confronted with a baby, here's how you respond to the cuteness question.
Q: Isn't baby Sophie cute? A: I've never seen anything like her! When someone asks if you want to hold a baby, you can say, "No, I don't think so. I have some idea of where that baby has been."
DEAR AMY: I'm having trouble telling my mother that I applied to attend university halfway across the country. I told my father I applied, and he wasn't very supportive at first but eventually came around. I had to make him promise not to tell my mother until it's confirmed that I am accepted. I did not want her rubbing my face in it if I was rejected, or trying to sabotage my attempts at improving myself and my life. I have never had a good relationship with this woman. It's not like I never tried, but my mother has issues that she takes out on me and my sisters instead of getting help. I'm just so tired of all the abuse. Accepted to college or not, I'm leaving this house. My question: Is it wrong of me to want to keep this news from her? Is it wrong that I feel the need to move so far away from her to be happy, to have my own life that will cater to me instead of her? Why can't my mother be happy for me?
DEAR GRAD: Going far away for college is one good and effective way to begin separating from a degrading, challenging parent. Your instincts are good. However -- and this is a big one -- you will find that your relationship issues tend to follow you wherever you go. You will still need to do the hard personal work of dealing with a mother who seems to undermine you at every turn. Leaving home is a start.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the letter from "Pregnant and Confused," who used to be a party girl but has now changed her ways. Her feelings echo mine. There are two things I can't stand: a drunk man when I'm sober, and a sober man when I'm drunk.
DEAR SOBER: A fairly universal reaction. Thank you.